“A murderer is seldom content with one crime.” ― Agatha Christie
Title: The Edwin Drood Murders
Author: Christopher Lord
Publisher: Harrison Thurman Books
Pages/Word Count: 304
Rating: 3 Stars
Blurb: The Droodists have arrived in Dickens Junction. Local bookstore owner Simon Alastair has his hands full in his role as co-chair for the latest convention honoring Charles Dickens’s uncompleted novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood. A movie star, a pesky blogger, dueling scholars, a stage hypnotist, and an old family friend (among others) all have claims on Simon’s time. In addition, some Droodists are clearly more-or less-than they appear, including a mysterious young man by the improbable name of Edwin Drood. When a priceless ring and a rare Dickensian artifact go missing, Simon and his reporter-partner Zach Benjamin learn that someone will do anything-including murder-to obtain an object of desire. The Edwin Drood Murders is the new entry in the Dickens Junction mystery series that began with The Christmas Carol Murders, a book that New York Times thriller writer Chelsea Cain called “a love letter to both Dickens and to the small town amateur detectives who’ve kept the peace in hamlets from River Heights to Cabot Cove.
Review: Told in the cozy cottage style of mystery, the sort Agatha Christie made famous, Christopher Lord puts his own spin on the genre with The Edwin Drood Murders, a story based in the fictional town of Dickens Junction, a place where, as you can glean from its name, pays homage to the famous author.
Before getting into the reviewing of the book, the second in the Dickens Junction Mystery series, I do feel it’s important to say though the book was submitted to be read as a standalone novel, I’d highly recommend reading book one, The Christmas Carol Murders, before delving into “Edwin Drood”. I didn’t and therefore can’t help but feel much of the charm of the setting, as well as the depth of the relationship between Simon Alastair and his boyfriend, Zach Benjamin, was missing, leaving the unpleasant aftertaste of only having experienced the story on a superficial level, as I wasn’t familiar with the main characters and their backstory.
As is typical of a mystery written in this vein, a generous cast of characters is introduced in the first chapter not only to put the reader in the position of playing along with Simon as the mystery unfolds but also to offer a long list of possible suspects in the crimes to follow. This cast is made up of a colorful blend of people, from the fussy scholars to the entertainers to the new age of online journalists, each of them coming into question when a valuable ring and an Hermes scarf comes up missing, and the body count begins to rise.
Not being particularly familiar with more than Dickens’ most popular works, the fascination with his unfinished The Mystery of Edwin Drood was lost on me as the foundation for this novel. This group of people who call themselves the “Droodists” have seen fit to gather together to celebrate a book for which they can only speculate how Dickens would have ended it, and I can’t help but feel the niche obsession with this particular work, as well as with Dickens himself, has held sway over my less than enthusiastic response to this novel.
Christopher Lord’s writing style is no doubt the strength of The Edwin Drood Murders, as it’s filled with charm and an ease that’s the hallmark of a natural storyteller. It’s obvious he’s taken his cues from Ms. Christie, throwing in plenty of unexpected twists and turns and making this series his own by putting a unique spin on the setting. Burglary, murder, plenty of red herrings, and a climax that gathers the cast in a single room for the big reveal of the murderer’s identity lends the cozy aspect to this genre novel. It’s familiar and should appeal to the most loyal fans of the cottage mystery.